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Tour Spain Winter 2022

My wife and I are planning to visit Spain in Feb & Mar 2022 and looking for ideas on an itinerary.
We have spent 5 days in Barcelona prior to taking a cruise. We saw many of the attractions in the city and spent a day at Montserrat but did not have time for exploring the surrounding countryside.
We will have 7-8 weeks and would like to spend a minimum of 3-4 nights at different towns and cities. We will rent a car where needed to see smaller or remote locations. We are mobile and enjoy walking. We both enjoy visiting historical sites and museums. Not much interested in art galleries so won't spend much time in Madrid. We also foodies and enjoyed the restaurants and tapas bars in Barcelona.
Thinking of taking a trip to Gibraltar and spending 5 or 6 days seeing a little of Morocco.
Might fly into Sevilla or Malaga and return from either Madrid or Barcelona.
Thanks for any suggestions.

Posted by
1174 posts

Don't shortchange Madrid. Its not all art museums. We prefer it by far over Barcelona.

Posted by
1201 posts

There's certainly more to Madrid than art galleries. The idea it doesn't have many other sights seems to come from those who've only had access to poorly written guidebooks. Madrid is also an excellent base for day-trips. Toledo, Cuenca, Avila, Segovia, and many more - perhaps even Salamanca by fast train, although that might be too far for a day-trip. Some of these places might well justify an overnight or more, of course, but if you prefer then it is certainly feasible to settle into Madrid for a week and mix seeing the city with excursions nearby. Madrid and around can be perishingly cold in February once the sun goes down so pack accordingly.

Gibraltar is fascinating, but not perhaps for more than a day's visit. For ease, this visit might be best by car. I think the rules have changed recently (but check, I may well be wrong), and Gibraltar is now in Schengen, but it's still probably sensible to park in Spain and walk across the border because parking on Gib is scarce.

With the time available, you could perhaps include some of the parts of Spain less-visited. For example, with a car, after the main Andalucia sights (Seville, Granada, etc), you could go east through Almeria and Murcia before heading north to Valencia. Of course, there is a good reason why Murcia region attracts less tourists - there are no "wow" sights, but a few interesting places for a 3-4 nights stop.

It won't be beach weather, I fear, however the larger towns at the seaside are still worth visiting at that time of year for their other attractions. Valencia and Malaga especially are each worth several days. 

You might want to check about festivals whilst there too. For example, carnivals before Lent are common and Cadiz has an especially famous one.

Posted by
1996 posts

I agree, Madrid is so much more than just the Museo del Prado. If you are truly interested in museums and historical things as you say, then look no further than the National Archaeological Museum, the Maritime/Naval Museum, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Museum of the Americas, and the Royal Armoury all located in Madrid. Plus all the great daytrips to historical sites like Segovia, Cuenca, Segobriga Celtic/Roman ruins, and the Visigothic ruins of recently excavated Recópolis.

Re: how Gibraltar will change moving forward: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55674148

Posted by
17881 posts

Spain is a large country with a lot of variety. Get a comprehensive guidebook to supplement Rick's focused book and see what areas seem most appealing. I dislike chilly, wet weather, so at that time of year I'd focus on the south and the east coast cities (like Barcelona and Valencia). The interior is cooler--especially at night--in the winter, and the northern coast (Galicia to the Basque Country) is likely to be quite damp as well as cool; it's notoriously rainy even in the middle of the summer.

I spent 28 nights in Andalucia in April 2019, basing in Ubeda (day-trips to Baeza and Jaen), Cordoba, Cadiz (day-trip to Vejer de la Frontera), Seville (day-trips to Carmona and Arcos de la Frontera), Ronda (day-trip to Grazalema), Malaga and Granada (day-trips to Priego de Cordoba and the Alpujarras). Granada and the Alpujarras, being located at some altitude, will likely be cooler than some of the other highlights in the area. I haven't checked the weather statistics on timeanddate.com, but I suspect Ubeda/Baeza/Jaen are also cooler. Others have mentioned liking Antequera, but I haven't been there. The area around Ronda is one where a car is useful, allowing one to visit the white villages without obsessing over bus schedules.

Morocco is wonderful but Tangiers in not. Rather than taking a ferry, I'd fly. That way you can go straight to the good stuff, like Fes and Marrakech. You could start or end your trip in Morocco rather than dropping it into the middle of your time in Spain; that would likely reduce your overall transportation time and transportation expenses. However, you could easily spend all the time you have in Spain.

I do love many of the places around Madrid where people often take day-trips, but I opted to spend multiple nights in Segovia, Toledo, Salamanca and Cuenca. Toledo is the one deserving the most time, I think. Since you aren't interested in art, Cuenca might be practical as a day-trip by AVE (fast train), because I spent a good amount of my time in two small modern-art museums. Otherwise, Cuenca is too far from Madrid to be a day-trip. Of the others, Segovia is the most viable as a day-trip. Avila has a wall but is otherwise an unexceptional place. Personally, I only recommend it for people who happen to be driving in the area. There are so many more interesting places in Spain.

My #1 recommendation around Barcelona is Girona with its large medieval district. I found plenty to do there to justify spending 2 or 3 nights, but I did go to the local art museum during that time, and it's my policy to walk every street when I encounter a medieval area. Figueres you should skip unless you want to visit the Dali Museum despite your lack of interest in art. Caceres is a charming white-washed former fishing village. It drips with bougainvillea in the summer; I have no idea what it's like in the dead of winter.

Zaragoza is on the rail line between Barcelona and Madrid. It has a nice historic district and a restored Moorish palace.

Posted by
2928 posts

Some good suggestions have already been mentioned. Agree with staying further south. Since you’re open to renting a car and would like to see some of the interior, in La Rioja and Aragon I’ll suggest Zaragoza, Olite, SOS del Rey Catolico, Teruel, Alarcon, Siguenza, Alcala de Henares, Logrono or Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Soria, and Burgos. Any would be great as a base for a few days as there are many sights in the smaller surrounding towns, from architecture to castles, churches, hermitages, walking trails, etc. If you’d like a list of the sights in those towns and nearby towns, send me a PM.

Posted by
17881 posts

I've been to many of the places Jaime mentioned and concur that they are great. I'm especially fond of Teruel for its mix of architecture and near-total lack of foreign tourists even in the summer. It's accessible by rail from Valencia or Zaragoza, but it's sort of awkward and time-consuming to visit it that way. If you happened to have a car in that area, you could see Teruel, Albarracin (which has only one bus a day, no trains) and Cuenca. But I'm not sure there's a convenient base from which you could visit all three; I suspect not. You can check driving times on ViaMichelin.com. Also note that all three of those places are at altitude (Albarracin's the highest), which would likely mean chilly temperatures and the possibility of snow.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks for all the great suggestions. We will want to spend some time in and around Madrid and may decide to end our trip there at the end of March.
I plan to get some guidebooks to further refine our plans. We got the Rick Steves guide prior to visiting Barcelona and found it invaluable in deciding what to see and where to wander.
I hadn't thought of starting in Morocco. Something to consider.
Thanks again.

Posted by
17881 posts

I assume Air Maroc still flies from NYC to Casablanca. Casablanca is nearly totally modern and not worth your time on a short visit, so get out of town as quickly as possible. You can fly from Fes or Marrakech to Spain.

Posted by
14211 posts

You might consider the Las Fallas festival in Valencia, usually (always?) March 15-19. Note that it gets pretty crowded on the final days.

The best of Morocco on a short visit is Fes and Marrakech. Fly from Spain to one, then fly to the other, then fly back to Spain. It will take a little planning because there aren't a lot of flights. My method for searching flights: go to the wiki page for the airport - every one has a table listing all the cities and airlines using it. You'll easily see what your options are from the 2 Moroccan cities to various places in Spain.

Malaga is usually easier to fly into than Sevilla from the US because it is much bigger, so supports larger jets. I would only do that if you need a connecting flight to get to Spain. Otherwise, best to flight direct to Madrid or Barcelona.

Mardi Gras is March 1, 2022. I think that puts the first Sunday of the celebrations on Feb. 20 in Cadiz. I went there on my first trip to Andalucia, based in Jerez and took the train for a day trip. It was very interesting, I had plenty of time to see a lot of the city's sights, and by the time the teens and 20-somethings got pretty loaded and rowdy around 8-9 pm I was very happy to head back to quiet Jerez.

Trains are fast, comfortable and frequent. The only area I needed a car for was the white hill towns. You can rent in Sevilla, Cordoba or Jerez and then return in Malaga or Granada. If you want to visit Gibraltar, a car is the most efficient way.

Posted by
1996 posts

We will rent a car where needed to see smaller or remote locations.

Missed this detail on my first post, but I applaud you for this decision. Public transport in Spain is great for stringing together the mainstream sites/places, but if you want to really get "off-the beaten-path" and have a taste of España profunda (deep Spain) that few foreign tourists see, a car is an invaluable asset.

For this, I would recommend this guidebook as such: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7945816-back-roads-spain . As a Spaniard myself, I must say DK has done a fantastic job with Back Roads Spain of illuminating that undiscovered Spain that few foreigners have the time or patience to seek out.

One area that the book does unfortunately omit is the Doñana National Park, just south of Sevilla. I would suggest El Rocío, a time-warped Andalucian cowboy town, as a base to explore this area. With its old taverns and dusty streets the town feels like something from the wild west. El Rocío is also one of the most important pilgrimage towns in Spain and is located in the heart of the Doñana National Park, a wild and beautiful wetlands of the Guadalquivir river, and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Posted by
17 posts

We will likely leave Toronto around mid Feb. and fly into Madrid & head south.
We will end in Madrid late March and fly home early April.
Planning is in the very early stages since the trip is 13 months away.
I've ordered the RS Spain Guide, the Back Roads of Spain Guide and map. Also have the Lonely Planet Guide on Morocco.
Thanks for the great ideas & suggestions.

Posted by
2928 posts

If heading south out of Madrid with a rental car, consider stopping in Chinchon for its Plaza Mayor, Consuegra for its castle and windmills, or Campo de Criptana for its windmills made famous in Cervantes Don Quixote. A few miles further east from Campo de Criptana is Belmonte castle.

Posted by
4610 posts

If you have 7-8 weeks, you might consider visiting Portugal as well. If you go to Morocco, visit Marrakesh, Fes and go south to Agidar near the Sahara.

For Spain, I strongly recommend Seville, Granada, Toledo, Cordoba, Madrid (do day trips to Toledo and Segovia), Salamanca ( near Portugal), Santiago de Compostela (in the NW), Bilbao and San Sebastian.

For Portugal, Lisbon, Sintra, Obidos, Porto and the Douro River Valley (take the train up the valley or a cruise).

Posted by
5 posts

"We will rent a car where needed to see smaller or remote locations."

The Alpujarra and the Genal Valley are both great for walking. Villages are close together and loop trails are abundant. The Wikiloc GPS app has thousands of trails all over Spain.